To help veterans, consolidation is the answer

| 29 Aug 2017 | 02:06

    On Sunday, Democrat [Sussex County freeholder] candidate Dan Perez spoke to a meeting of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and did what Democrats always do, he promised to spend more money. Perez announced that he planned to create a $100,000 per year job with benefits.
    In a press release, Perez wrote that the new spending was necessary for "connecting Sussex County's veterans with various federal, state, county and local programs; developing partnerships with corporations, agencies and groups that can assist with housing, transportation, health and therapy, employment, disability, education and other services; advocacy and outreach; drafting a newsletter; informing and educating veterans regarding the benefits to which they are entitled; and interfacing with the various veteran groups in the county."
    Aside from the newsletter (a public relations vehicle for Freeholder Board?), everything he mentioned is already being done. It's just not being done in one place and it isn't easily accessible on the county website. These are problems that can be addressed without spending $100,000 on some politically connected patronage employee.
    Sussex County Community College has had an excellent "Change of Mission" program since 1982. This program works with veterans, dependents of deceased or disabled veterans, and active duty military to provide quality assistance and guidance. SCCC helps with obtaining GI benefits and provides personalized attention for all veterans and their families. We are already paying for this program, so why not expand it using the students themselves. Student interns could acquire valuable work-study experience in a growing field of employment and the county could involve far more than one $100,000 employee in the outreach.
    This program can be accessed on-line through the SCCC website. The county website should add a special veterans services portal that would include this and other veterans' services all in one place. A kind of one-stop shopping.
    Sussex County currently serves veterans through the Social Services Department's Service Disabled Resource program. This department reviews each individual case and connects clients with programs in the region and state. This program, along with others, such as County Clerk Jeff Parrott's veterans ID card and Community Veterans Support Centers, should be prominently featured on the county website's veterans services portal.
    We need to determine the extent of homelessness among veterans and then broadly tackle the problem. In his remarks on Sunday, Mr. Perez was unaware that there is a great deal of data from the United States Census to help with determining who needs help and making sure they get it. The Census reports that as of 2015 there are 9,070 veterans in Sussex County. Each veteran has his or her own set of needs.
    I have a son who served in Korea and Afghanistan and have coached some of the Little League kids who fought in Afghanistan as well as my friends who are veterans. I understand the need for these services, I also attended the opening of the Sussex Community based center in Newton which allowed Veterans to get services in Sussex County. And I attended Rolling Thunder in Washington DC, advocacy group that seeks to bring accountability for prisoners of war and MIA’s.
    I also believe that a Freeholder liaison, not a county employee, should attend the veteran’s meetings. We need to talk directly to veterans. My goal is to consolidate current programs into a veterans services portal on the county website so that those looking for help can easily find it.
    Herb Yardley
    Republican Freeholder Candidate
    (Yardley is the Republican candidate for the one open four-year seat on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Dan Perez is the Democrat candidate.)